You are God’s temple, the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, who changes your heart to be a person living in God’s way for your sake and the sake of the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Third Sunday in Lent, year B
Texts: John 2:13-22; Exodus 20:1-17 (with ref. to 1 Corinthians 6:19)
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“What sign can you show us for doing this?” the temple leaders asked.
“Where do you get the authority to throw out our money changers and animal sellers?” It’s a fair question – they’re the authorities in the temple, not Jesus.
But this is the sign he gives them: “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That’s hugely confusing, to them and to us. Jesus’ actions had to do with the actual temple, made of stones and mortar. But then (and the disciples only realized this after his death and resurrection), Jesus shifted to speaking of his own body as the temple.
Jesus claimed to be the dwelling place of God, the place where God’s Spirit lived. That was his authority to declare how the stones-and-mortar temple for God’s worship (and the pilgrims being fleeced there) should be treated.
It also opened up the imagination of the early Church after they experienced Pentecost.
Twenty years after Easter and Pentecost, the apostle Paul revealed what the early Church learned from this.
“Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” Paul asks the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:19), as if it was a well-known truth. Jesus referred to himself as God’s temple. Now Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that they, too, are temples of God, filled with the Holy Spirit.
And, Paul says, that means they’ll live different lives. Because they are Spirit-filled, they’ll glorify God with their bodies, their actions, their love, their faithfulness.
This is your baptismal promise, too: you are God’s temple, the Holy Spirit lives in you. We walk our journey of faith dripping wet from the waters of our baptism, reminded that we are not our own. You are not your own. God lives in you, and that will transform your heart, and your actions and life as you live bearing God’s Spirit in the world.
Because a heart filled with the Holy Spirit sees God’s way more deeply and broadly than before.
Both Martin Luther and Jesus taught us this as they considered the Ten Commandments, the covenant at Sinai we heard today.
Jesus first deepened them. You think you’ve kept the commandment “you shall not kill?” Jesus asks. Fine; but how are you handling your anger towards others, your calling them fools and idiots? That, too, violates this command. He isn’t making this commandment, or the others he deepened, harder. Jesus is saying that if your heart is filled with God’s Spirit you see that the original commandments only signal the outer boundaries of behavior. As you live into God’s way, they open up deeper and deeper ways to be faithful.
Luther broadened what Jesus deepened. In the Catechism, he taught every commandment as both forbidding things but also commanding positive things. He said “you shall not kill” also means helping and supporting neighbors in all their physical needs. So our concern for justice and ending oppression of our neighbors stems directly from our hearts shaped by the Spirit within, responding to this commandment, just as Jesus’ concern for the unjust practices of the temple came from the same place.
As you learn to listen to God’s voice moving in you, the pull of the Spirit, as you find quiet places in each day to be open to God’s presence in your life, you will be changed.
How you live and move and work in the world will be changed. It’s the sign to others that you are filled with God’s life, as it was with Jesus.
Of course, there’s a big challenge in this. If everyone runs around saying that God’s Spirit is in them and that’s the sign, the authority, for what they do, all sorts of evil can happen. (For example, just think of the many Christians who’ve used Jesus’ actions in the temple to justify violence and destruction in God’s name.)
That’s why God’s written Word is so important. God’s Word checks our behavior, makes sure we’re still on God’s path, refocuses us. Like these Ten Commandments, where we’re challenged by Jesus and Luther and the Spirit within us, to stay on the path of the life of God. Or Jesus’ summary of all the commandments, to love God and neighbor with sacrificial, vulnerable love, love as he has for us. That’s the corrective to using the Spirit as license to do whatever we want to whomever we want.
This is a lot to process, to take in.
We’re used to being the center of our own attention, having our needs, wants, and desires our focus. But Jesus is always calling you and me, sometimes gently, sometimes more strongly, to be centered on the love and life of God within us. To recognize that in our baptism we are in fact God’s temples, filled with God’s presence, and moving in the world.
Shaped by God’s Spirit living in you, you learn to see the world through God’s eyes, all the problems and unjust systems of our world that can and must be changed, just as Jesus saw the injustice in the temple practices. And with the Spirit’s grace, you can find your part in helping that change, no matter how old or how young you are.
That’s the abundant life Jesus came to invite you to know and live, and to invite all God’s children to know and live, for the sake of your healing and the healing of the world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen